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Southern California will see 'striking increases' in fire days, study says

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Southern California will see 'striking increases' in fire days, study says
Members of a hot shot crew remove fuel along a containment line during the Caldor fire near Meyers, Calif., on August 31, 2021. A new UCLA study says Southern California will experience "striking increases" in high risk fire days in mid-21st century. File Photo by Peter DaSilva/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Coastal Southern California will experience major increases in wildfire days in the mid-21st century, according to a new study from the University of California-Los Angeles.

The UCLA study said there will be "striking increases in climatologically identifiable large fire days in the mid-21st century and that this trend will accelerate in the latter half of the century."

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The UCLA study published in the Nature journal Communications Earth & Environment projects that "the number of days with a high risk for fire would nearly double to about 58 days per year."

That would happen, the study said, under a scenario in which the average temperature in Southern California increases by almost 9 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100 -- which would be likely if there is no significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Even if emissions are curbed enough to slow climate change, the study said, temperatures could still increase by 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit, causing a 60% increase per year in high-risk fire days.

A UCLA press statement said that for years the Northern California coast and Sierra Nevada areas have experienced more fires while Southern California "hasn't experienced the same increase."

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But the new study said that fire disparity between north and south isn't likely to continue.

"If you look at the whole state, there's been a statistically significant upswing in area burned," said UCLA climate scientist Glen MacDonald, co-author of the paper.

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